Suspected drug dealers nabbed
Yearlong probe leads to arrests
Throughout the morning on Thursday, a parade of suspects accused of selling drugs in Blair County over the past year were brought before a judge at Central Court on Fourth Street.
For many, like 36-year-old Dione Boynton, of Altoona, it’s not the first time.
Boynton was arrested in a November 2016 drug sweep, charged with selling heroin. On Thursday, Boynton was back in handcuffs trying to explain to Magisterial District Judge Fred Miller why she should be set free on supervised bail a second time while having to admit she failed multiple drug tests since her arrest last year and is now accused of selling crack cocaine while awaiting trial on those previous heroin charges.
“I’ve never been in trouble on my bail,” Boynton told the judge as she sat in handcuffs during her preliminary arraignment.
“You’ve had multiple failures,” Miller replied, reminding Boynton she had just told him she failed “quite a few” of her drug tests after she was released on supervised bail earlier this year. Boynton said she had gone into a drug treatment program and then stopped. It was during that time she is accused of selling molly, a form of MDMA or ecstasy, as well as crack cocaine to a police informant in three controlled buys by Altoona police on three consecutive days in mid-May. Boynton said she then got back into treatment a couple of weeks ago.
“While you were in treatment and on supervised bail, you allegedly sold crack cocaine,” Miller said. “That’s a huge violation of supervised bail.”
When bail was set at $35,000 cash on each of her three cases, Boynton broke down crying as she arranged with a family member in the courtroom to take care of her two children, who are both under the age of 10.
Thursday’s drug sweep targeted 35 suspected drug dealers accused of selling everything from heroin and cocaine to prescription pills and LSD, noted Altoona police Detective Lt. Ben Jones.
“Even though they’re small, street-level dealers for the most part, they are people we garner information off of — and not just with narcotics, but in regards to robberies, thefts and other crimes,” Jones said of the value the drug investigations are to police and ultimately the community.
Jones said the investigations span the course of the past year and were made possible with the help of Operation Our Town. Jones said the police recognize the suspects are themselves struggling with addiction and for those people seeking help, there are programs such as drug court to help them.
“We always like to see the success stories of people who get into recovery and stay there,” Jones said.
By the end of the day, 19 of the 35 suspects were in custody, police said. Preliminary hearings for the suspects are slated for Oct. 5 at Central Court in front of Miller.
Back at Central Court, a haggard Andrew Robinson explained to the judge the toll heroin addiction has taken on his family. The 36-year-old Johnstown resident is accused of selling 80 packets of heroin to a police informant in Altoona in May and then delivering another 100 packets in June.
“I was just recently, in the last few months, been able to openly admit to my parents I have a really bad drug problem,” Robinson told Miller. “I’ve made a lot of bad decisions to support my drug habit.”
Robinson said he’s lived in Johnstown 17 years, as long as he’s been married.
“We’ve been separated for the last three years due to heroin addiction,” Robinson said before telling the court his three children live with his wife’s father since she is currently in Cambria County Prison after overdosing in April outside a Sheetz while her 19-month-old was in the car.
Robinson, an Army veteran who was honorably discharged, said he prayed last night he could get some treatment, and when police arrived, he was happy to see them.
“I was relieved,” Robinson said. “I just — I’m very ashamed of who I’ve become and I want to change that. In the past, when I got into trouble, I just put a Band-Aid on it and decided to dibble and dabble and was still in denial that I have an addiction.”
Miller released Robinson on unsecured bail with the condition he contact the Veterans Affairs justice outreach coordinator in Altoona by the end of today to get evaluated and get treatment.
Other suspects were less open to the idea they did anything wrong.
Michelle Barr, 37, of Hollidaysburg, told the judge she has no past drug arrests and that allegations she sold 10 hits of LSD to a police informant for $50 in October 2014 “was nothing.”
“You don’t want to get into that here,” Miller said, cautioning Barr like every other suspect not to talk about the particulars of her case.
“It was a year ago,” Barr said. “I was separated from my husband two months before. I don’t do drugs. I’m not into drugs.”
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.